Former chief minister of Karnataka Jagadish Shettar returned to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier today (25 January).
This development has come as a surprise to both the Congress and certain sections of BJP's Karnataka unit.
Ahead of the state assembly elections, upset with the party's failure to provide a ticket, Shettar had switched to the Congress, where he ran unsuccessfully in Hubli-Dharwad Central.
What Brings Him Back?
On 25 January, Shettar rejoined the BJP in New Delhi. Party colleagues B Y Vijayendra and B S Yediyurappa welcomed him back to the BJP.
Speaking to the media, he said that he got back to the party with a belief that Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'should be elected the Prime Minister' once again. Shettar, 67, is a Lingayat leader — a community that dominates the electoral political landscape in the state.
Congress, taking advantage of disunity within the BJP, swept nearly 50 Lingayat-dominated seats in Karnataka in the 2023 state election. Traditionally, the Lingayats have been rallying behind the BJP and the credit for this mobilisation is attributed to B S Yediyurappa.
Top BJP sources, speaking to Swarajya, informed that the party has been making attempts to bring Shettar back to its fold since the last month-and-a-half. Shettar may have considered the offer for the following reasons: ideological incompatibility with the Congress, his son's political future, BJP's performance in the recent state assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, or even a Lok Sabha ticket aspiration.
'Even The CM And DyCM Were Shocked'
When Swarajya spoke to Congress and BJP insiders, both agreed that it came as a shock to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister (DyCM) D K Shivakumar, since Shettar's exit would count as yet another upset ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in the country.
To add to their worries, many Congress MLAs are unhappy with their ministerial berths, and have been demanding the DyCM post.
However, the shock was not just in the Congress camp. Journalist and author Sugata Srinivasaraju tweeted saying that even some in the top leadership within the BJP were unaware of Shettar's plan to rejoin the party.
What Transpired Behind The Scenes?
Shettar was supposed to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi last night (24 January), but because of flight delays, reached a few hours late. On the morning of 25 January, a meeting is said to have transpired between Shah and Shettar, resulting in him returning to the party earlier today. It must be noted that Shettar was nominated as an MLC after he lost the assembly polls. This adds insult to the injury for the Congress party, and the BJP leadership seems to have finally caught a break.
"It is a really big achievement for us — both image-wise and narrative-wise. It is a big setback for CM Siddaramaiah and DyCM D K Shivakumar. Shettar had become a new darling for the Congress. After all, it was their persistent pursuit that got Shettar to join the Congress. His return to the BJP will reflect very poorly on the Congress," a BJP insider tells Swarajya in anonymity.
There are also signs that the party would seek to placate other disgruntled leaders like Basangouda Patil Yatnal and V Somanna. The BJP wants to project stability within the party and wants an absolute backing from the Lingayat community ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
What The Near Future Looks Like, For Shettar And BJP
With the Lingayat leadership question being settled in favour of the Yediyurappa family, the party hopes to repair the damage suffered last year.
Although there are thick rumours in Bengaluru that Laxman Savadi may also come back to the BJP fold, Congress insiders deny that possibility. With Shettar gone from the party, Savadi has a bigger bargaining chip. Although, he may face competition from M B Patil — a senior Congress leader who also happens to be from the Lingayat community and is a close aide to CM Siddaramaiah.
BJP insiders inform Swarajya that there is a possibility that Shettar may be offered a chance to contest the Lok Sabha polls from either Belagavi, Dharwad or Haveri.
There is also a thin possibility that Shettar may ask for the Uttara Kannada Lok Sabha seat since Ananth Kumar Hegde, the sitting MP, has been facing internal dissent and health issues at the same time. There is also a possibility that MP from Haveri-Gadag, Shivkumar Chanabasappa Udasi may be asked to vacate the seat for Shettar. However, senior leader Eshwarappa is reportedly anchoring for the Haveri-Gadag seat, making the decision that much more difficult for the BJP.
While there is also a possibility that Shettar is offered a Rajya Sabha seat, the chances of that are fewer since Shettar was reportedly offered a Rajya Sabha seat or a governor's position by the BJP after he was denied a ticket to contest the Assembly polls in 2023.
Congress insiders say Shettar felt that his future in the party was bleak, and was regretting joining the party in the first place. Secondly, his contact with the Congress high command was minimal.
As BJP seeks to reverse the loss of 2023 in Karnataka and Congress seeks to build on it, the next few weeks and months would be interesting to observe and study.
Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!